Debt And Politics

Debt is ubiquitous in the United States. Virtually everyone in the United States has taken on debt at some time. That may be through credit cards, a car loan, a mortgage, or even to buy a telephone.

Credit and debt is the grease that keep economies running smoothly.

From an economic perspective credit and debt is good, healthy and normal. Our problem has become debt from a political perspective.

When an individual borrows money, to buy a car for instance, what they are doing is pulling that economic activity forward in time. They are making a choice between saving money for the next four years and paying cash for that car or borrowing money at interest to pay back for the next four years and driving that car home today. They are pulling forward in time that economic activity of purchasing a car.

There is nothing inherently wrong with doing that.

Debt from a political perspective is an entirely different story. Politicians have found that the same principle holds true for debt on a governmental level; that it pulls economic activity forward. In a government model where politicians are elected this is a very dangerous thing. What is the first job of every elected politician? To get re-elected. What is the surest way to get re-elected? Increase the standard of living and wages and perceived wealth of your constituents. What is the easiest way to do that? Borrow money as a government and get that borrowed money into the hands of your constituents.

For an elected politician, borrowing public money to pull economic activity forward into the politician’s current term in office is a temptation that is irresistible. That debt will come due when the politician is no longer in office. Magical.

The problem is that we have been doing this for decades in the United States. We have now adopted a zero interest rate policy in order to hide the pain of having to pay back the money we have already borrowed. Eventually we will not be able to hide the pain.

At some point politicians will not be able to keep kicking the can down the road to their elected successor. For example Greece has hit this point. A series of Greek governments borrowed an incredible amount of money over many years. This money was used by the politicians to proclaim how great and wonderful they were in improving the standard of living in Greece. Now the debt has come due and Greece is being bled dry trying to service that debt. The wages and income for Greeks has slid all the way back to what it was in 1980.

Politicians can borrow public money in order to make things look much better than they actually are and ride that to re-election. Politicians can do this for a long time. Eventually, and long after the politicians who voted to borrow the money have left office, the citizens are left with the consequences of that foolishness.

 

Government Is Force

This is the essence of a free market – it is voluntary – it is not the government making you (or the government empowering some other entity to make you) buy or sell or determine the price at which you must buy or sell or punishing you if you do not do what the government (or a government sanctioned entity) wishes for you to do.

This is called freedom and this is called a free market.

All other economic/political/social systems in which the government requires you to buy, sell or determines at what price you will buy or sell, or punishes you for not engaging in commerce which the government sanctions is not a free market.

The adherents of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are not going to come out in their campaign propaganda and say “We will use the force and power of the government to make you buy, make you sell and control the price at which you buy and sell and punish you if you do not do what we wish” but that is exactly what their policies will do.

Using the power of government to make you buy, make you sell, determine the price at which you must buy or sell and punish you if you decline to participate is what their entire political platforms are based on. They hire very bright people to decorate this idea of using government force to compel you to enrich the private entities that donate to their campaigns – using words such as ‘fair’ and ‘justice’ – but at the end of the day it is simply using government force to transfer your wealth to their supporters. End of story.

You have two choices here – you can choose a free market in which each individual is equal, no one can compel you to engage in commerce which you do not wish to engage in, and no one will use government force to take your wealth and transfer it to their cronies – or you can choose a system in which some politician will decide what is equal, the government will compel you to engage in commerce, the government will determine what commerce at what price and in what quantity you must engage, the government will use force to take your wealth and give it to their supporters, and freedom continues to die.

Choose wisely.

Justifying A Fantasy

“We’re living in an age where what you say and its relation with the facts is completely irrelevant.” – Charles Krauthammer

Charles Krauthammer statement is true. We have a very vocal minority in this country that believe in a fantasy. Their entire existence revolves around keeping the fantasy intact. They believe it is mandatory to attack anyone who demonstrates the fantasy as what it is: a fantasy.

An example of this fantasy is Bernie Sanders and his adherents pointing to Denmark as what they want the United States to become.  Denmark has a corporate tax rate that is close to half that of the United States yet the tax burden on the Danish middle class ranges from 60-80%. Yes you read that correctly, the Danish middle class is taxed at a 60-80% clip. Sound like the utopian paradise you would like to turn the United States into?

In the leftist fantasy, none of the truth about Denmark is true.

“All of these actions impede upon the individual freedoms and privacy rights of others, all under the guise of “equality.” And because cultural Marxists need to constantly observe ever greater modes of oppression and inequality in order to justify their existence, the impositions on individual liberty will never end. Today, people may argue that such violations are “minor” and not to be concerned over. It is happening to strangers or distant neighbors, not to them; so why should they care? Liberty movement champions know full well why this thinking is idiotic; the trampling of one person’s individual liberties is the trampling of ALL people’s individual liberties. Totalitarianism is a virus that feeds on one person to the next until everyone is on the menu.” – Brandon Smith

We have a significant number of people in this country who believe that totalitarianism is where they want to go.  They believe that they have been treated unfairly and others have prospered unfairly. To an extent that is true – however in their naivety and ignorance they have decided that the answer to this is to place almost all power in the hands of a select few individuals to make things ‘fair’. They have adopted the mantle of ‘victimhood’ in order to deprive others of their right to speech, deprive them of their property, and deprive others of any right that indeed exposes the alleged ‘victims’ as being the actual perpetrators.

This is the opposite of equality. This is the opposite of freedom. This is the opposite of liberty. This is a perpetuation of the very system that creates victims. and actual victims is what the Left intends to create in as large a number as they can possibly manage. This is evil.

Here is the root of the problem; they will continue in a never-ending fashion trying to destroy people, institutions, and above all truth because this is what they have come to believe is required to justify a fantasy – and of course destroying people, institutions and truth will never accomplish their goal of justifying a fantasy. There will simply never be an end to it, ever, because you cannot justify a fantasy by destroying truth and those who proclaim truth no matter how much destruction you may proliferate.  Yet that is what they will attempt to do.

Mark my words.

We Can Only Absorb Stupid For So Long

“When governments find themselves in financial trouble because of the stupid decisions that they’ve made, their first response is to award themselves even more power to make even stupider decisions.” – Simon Black

“It was the most memorable time of my life. It was a touching moment because I never thought this day would ever happen. I won’t have to worry about putting gas in my car. I won’t have to worry about paying my mortgage. You know, if I help him, he’s gonna help me.” — Obama supporter Peggy Joseph

“Things always become obvious after the fact” – Nassim Nicholas Taleb

We can trace the stupid financial decisions of the United States back a long way. We can trace it back to our first Progressive President, Teddy Roosevelt, giving JP Morgan $25,000,000 with which to bail out a bank that a friend of TR was invested in (by the way JPM did not bail out the bank, he just kept the twenty five million. TR did not have the courage to ask for the taxpayers money to be returned). We can trace it to our next Progressive President, Woodrow Wilson, creating the IRS and the Federal Reserve and subsequently also creating the first Federal Reserve generated monetary bubble. We can trace it to Franklin Roosevelt believing that the proper course was to imitate Mussolini and Italian Fascism, even to the point of inviting Italian Fascist to come to Washington and to help draft legislation and regulations for the New Dealers. We can trace it to Lyndon Johnson and LBJ’s burning desire to ‘complete’ the New Deal and finish what FDR could not with all of the accompanying deceit and fraud of government finances that LBJ engineered. We can trace it to Nixon deciding that a never ending expansion of government agencies, government control and government financial engineering would solve all of the problems that he inherited from LBJ. We can trace it to Bill Clinton deregulating the entire banking system except the FDIC. I suppose we could then draw the well known correlation between the millions of dollars Clinton received from the Wall Street banks after leaving the White House and his deregulation of these same banks. We can trace it to the profligate spending of George W Bush and the complete absence of adult supervision of the Federal Reserve on his watch. We can certainly trace it to Obama taking all of the dysfunctional fiscal and monetary policies of the W era and then putting them on steroids while deciding to centrally plan and control nearly every aspect of American economic life.

In other words, there is plenty of stupid to go around, Democrat and Republican, for decades.

It is in the nature of human beings who have acquired some degree of power to attempt to expand that power, especially when they have failed. We have now had generations of Presidents and congresses who have repeatedly awarded themselves even more power to compensate for stupid decisions and consequently used that power to make even more stupid decisions.

We have a meaningful number of voters who believe they can and will get a free lunch.  We have politicians always willing to rationalize their bad decisions by claiming they just provided that free lunch.

This is a disaster in the making and someday in retrospect in will be obvious. We can only absorb stupid for so long.

Times that Try Comrades’ Souls, But, No Smoking Gun Nyet.

In the meeting of Trump campaign officials and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Left appears to believe it finally has an impeachment bullet. “Smoking gun” gloats syndicated columnist Doyal McManus. “Criminal implications,” sniffs CNN’s Jeffrey Toobin.
 
UCLA Law Professor Eugene Volokh douses such fevered diagnoses in this thoughtful analysis. Essentially, the alleged crime is seeking to receive “something of value” from a foreign national. But, no case has ever interpreted a piece of gossip as an item of commercial value. Rather, the law has applied the common sense understanding that a gift of value refers to cash, in kind services, or a marketable political asset like polling data or an advertising plan. “Hey, do you know what I heard about your opponent?” has never been commoditized. Volokh argues any such interpretation would unduly restrict speech and information, and violate the First Amendment.
 
But, it’s not just liberal legal beagles who are picking at the meat and bones of the story. Conservative Trump critics and some occasional defenders of Trump are also finding cause for angst and condemnation. “Disgraceful,” opines John Podhoretz. “Outrageous misconduct,” pronounces conservative super lawyer Andrew McCarthy. “This is terrible” agrees libertarian Sensei David Harsanyi. “Wrong and stupid” piles on Keith, my blogging partner here at Insurgent Tribe.
 
The collective opinion of these critics is that whether or not meeting with the Russian temptress crossed any legal lines, it was stupid, it was compromising, it was scandalous, it looks and smells bad. It was a capital political offense.
 
With much respect for these commenters, I just don’t see it. Donald Trump Jr. heard from a shadowy operative that she had dirt on Hillary Clinton. Campaigns live to find dirt on their opponents. No political aide, staffer, or official in their sane mind would refuse to hear what the information might be, how damaging it was, how credible it was, how it was obtained (for example, if the info was the fruit of a crime, then any rational politico runs from the fire alarm). But just to sit down and say: “What have ya got,” seems to me to be the only earthly response imaginable.
 
Now, there is, of course, a whole world of objectionable and compromising real estate that might snare a candidate or campaign. Was there some quid pro quo proposed, a request for a favor in the Russian interest? The slope is slippery and the chasm deep, but, “show me what you got” seems an unimaginable card to refuse to play.
 

As it turns out, Ms. Veselnitskaya, had nothing and delivered nothing, and says Trump Jr. may have been misled about her role and intent. But, what, if she had had information, say, that Hillary Clinton demanded contributions to the Clinton Foundation in exchange for her approval as Secretary of State, of the sale of uranium rights to Russian interests? A shocking and implausible claim, I know. Still, a serious query to the critics of the meeting: Would it not be in the national interest for Americans to know their Secretary of State was selling access to her office and decisions? Would there be anything nefarious or harmful to the US interest for the Trump campaign to receive and disclose that information? Of course not!

Context and actual policy are critical here, too. The Trump administration is not doing Russia any favors. Trump’s plan to increase energy production is putting the screws to Russia’s major hard export. The US military’s tougher stance in the Middle East is undermining Putin’s client Assad. Nikki Haley regularly blasts Russian policy at the UN. Trump’s acclaimed speech in Poland not only cast a dim eye on Russian thuggery, but promised Poland strategic energy if Putin again tries to cut off the pipelines.

 
Too, the double standards of liberal critics of the current administration are hard to stomach. The Trump team was offered, and tried to eyeball, dirt on the Clinton organization. Let’s compare that to a brief review of Democrat plotting and entanglement with foreign enemies. This short and incomplete survey is not offered as a tu quoque get out of jail free card, but rather as a substantive measuring stick. What kind of entanglements have not been generally regarded by Democrats and their media allies as scandalous betrayals of the American trust, and how do they compare by trying to peak into a hinted dossier?
 
Well, in advance of the 1984 election and at the height of the Cold War, Senator Edward Kennedy contacted the Soviet Union and solicited foreign policy moves by Mikhael Gorbachev that would undermine President Reagan on the global stage, and embolden leftist nuclear protestors.
 
John Kerry traveled to Nicaragua and gave aid and comfort to Daniel Ortega at a time the Reagan administration’s policy was to try to dislodge the dictator’s communist grip on Central America.
 
Barack Obama and John Kerry negotiated secret side deals with Iran to bribe it into the nuclear accords. They altered their rules of engagement and strategies in combat missions in the Middle East, to avoid offending Iran. They spirited $400 million in laundered cash to Iran on pallets.
Hillary Clinton actually did approve, as Secretary of State, the sale of uranium assets to Russian interests, and Russian interests actually did contribute millions to the Clinton family enterprise. Bill Clinton, future First Man in waiting, gave a half million dollar speech to Russian interests.
No liberal batted an eye. The Gray Lady never got her knickers in a twist about any of this. It wasn’t deemed “treason” or “impeachable,” or “aid and comfort to the enemy.”
 
But, somehow, a 20 minute meeting with a mysterious Russian caller to see what the caller might have to offer shakes our Republic to its foundations, corrupts our democracy, and betrays the Constitution.
Oh, poppycock. These people are not serious and should not be taken seriously.